Tagged: League Table

Hammers hurdle forward and Villa vanquishes backwards

A tale of two teams!

The last time I dug into the English Premier League (Week 6) the League Table had Chelsea 1st (16 points), Southampton (13 points), followed by Man City (11 points), then Aston Villa, Swansea City, and Arsenal all tied for fifth on (10 points).

And here’s how the Composite PWP Index looked at that same time:

CPWP Strategic Index Week 6 EPL

Five of the six teams in league table were part of the top seven teams in the CPWP Index; note how far down the Index Aston Villa was; even on 10 points and tied for 5th place!

Was that an indicator that their early season run was more about luck than strong team attacking and defending across the entire pitch?

I’m not sure – but I’ll take a peak at both West Ham and Aston Villa, in a few, to give you a picture on how those teams performed in the first 6 weeks versus the last 5 weeks.

For now, fast forward to the end of Week 11 and here’s the lay of the land in the League Table:  Chelsea sit on 29 points; Southampton 25 points; Man City 21 points; West Ham 18 points; and Swansea City  18 points.

Moving up from 7 points after week 6 (tied for 13th) to 18 points was West Ham.

While Aston Villa took a complete nose dive (sorry Tom Hanks) to 16th with 11 points.

Here’s how the CPWP Index looks after Week 11:

CPWP STRATEGIC INDEX WEEK 11 EPL

In looking at the Index West Ham is 8th best, compared to 11th best five weeks ago.  

Southampton and Man City have both shifted past Chelsea (probably related to defending and not attacking) while Swansea has dropped below Man United, Arsenal, and Everton.

I won’t go into the details on those moves this week – even though I probably should given Swansea City just beat The Arsenal 2-1…

I’ll save that for later – just like the mystery about Southampton.

In regards to Aston Villa, they’ve not moved an inch in the Index – suppose one wouldn’t expect it seeing as they’ve only taken one point and it’s hard to drop lower than Burnley or QPR.

Nevertheless – be prepared – there is some grist coming up that may surprise you.

First Off – Attack – Aston Villa (weeks one through six, and weeks seven through 11):

Key Strategic Attacking Indicators Aston VillaObservations:

Clearly the amount of possession has increased (considerably) during these two phases – a 9% jump is considerable in my opinion.

Whether that is a result of the opponent or an internal tactical move is hard to determine at this stage but it should be noted there was a bump (increase) across the board in all the key PWP indicators with one exception – goals scored divided by shots on goal.

In looking at Major League Soccer for two years now the explanation usually goes along the lines of this.

1) The opponents decide to cede possession somewhat by playing deeper against the attacking side… both Portland Timbers and Philadelphia Union did that this year and both organizations substantiated (in one shape or another) that tactic.

To reinforce that position – their average total Attacking Final Third passes, per game, in games 1-6 were ~89; that number vaulted to 120, per game, between games 7-11.

Clearly the opponent looks to have taken a different approach in defending against Aston Villa – OR – Aston Villa has tried to step up penetration based upon overall possession; if Villa has attempted the later of the two I’d suggest they revisit their tactical attacking approach.

2) The trend for teams who don’t pass as accurately as the other teams in the league (Villa are in the lower half) seems to be that more possession sometimes includes more penetration and more shots taken, but that volume and percentage increase does not translate to goals given a somewhat higher potential for impatience.

When checking out West Ham there can be an economy of scale – but I think it’s probably more to do with the type and skill of the current players available as opposed to the normal course of events.

Aston Villa in Defending:

Key Strategic Defending Indicators Aston VillaThe change between both phases, in defending, almost seems to match the attacking pattern of West Ham, with two exceptions.

Overall opponent possession did drop, as did passing accuracy, but penetration increased, as did shots taken per penetration, shots on goal per shots taken and goals scored per shots on goal.

Pretty much indicating to me that the opponents worked hard to trap Aston Villa going forward, ceding possession in order to gain critical time and space in quick, purposeful counterattacks!

That may sound a bit early as an observation – but these same trends have shown themselves in the MLS for the last two years – and after awhile it does appear that generic patterns are showing through.

Next West Ham in Attack (weeks one through six, and weeks seven through 11):

Key Strategic Attacking Indicators West Ham

In this diagram there’s almost a direct contrast; where Aston Villa’s numbers pretty much increased across the board, with the exception of Goals Scored – it’s almost the opposite for West Ham.

For West Ham their passing accuracy decreased, possession remained the same, while penetration, and shots on goals versus shots taken decreased.

Only two increases, the percentage of shots taken per penetrating possession and goals scored.

When studying teams in MLS this year – a pattern like this seemed to indicate a team leaning towards a more direct attack in nature.

The primary indicator supporting that, given lower passing accuracy and lower shooting accuracy, is the percentage and volume increase in shots taken per penetration.

For some teams that percentage works better when lower – especially when they have a higher passing accuracy.

But in the case of West Ham, it is likely they are simply looking to take more shots, quicker, and with less penetration.  Working off the philosophy that more is better.

In La Liga we know that more was better, the same held true for the World Cup as well – so this approach may be Sam Allardyce’s way of getting more with less.

When looking at the two separate phases, West Ham averaged 15.20 shots taken per game in games 7-11 versus 13.33 in games 1-6.

In addition, in games 7-11 they averaged 106.4 passes within and into the final third, versus 121.5 in games 1-6.

The other interesting note is that as passing accuracy decreased so did the volume – again speaking to perhaps? harder/longer balls being played in order to move the ball quicker into the final third when the opportunity presented itself; below are the average volumes during these two phases to confirm that.

West Ham total passes attempted (446.83 = 1-6) and passes completed (300 = 1-6)

West Ham total passes attempted (411.80 = 7-11) and passes completed (262.80 = 7-11).

As seen between phases I and II the volume of passes attempted AND passes completed decreased.

In looking at the end results – the percentage of goals scored per shots on goal went up by 18%; that huge increase in percentage only equates to an overall increase in goals scored, per game, of 1.67 to 1.80.

Given that it would appear that the defensive performance has also improved during this stretch.  Here”s the info for West Ham:

Key Strategic Defending Indicators West HamWhat appears to me is the same thing type of pattern that I’ve seen with Portland Timbers and Philadelphia Union this year.

The defending tactics seem to indicate the opponent has been ceded time and space outside, and moving into, the defending final third a bit more.

In turn the percentages of penetrating possession and shots taken increase – but with reduced time and space (given a tighter/deeper line) the shots on goal and goals scored percentages have dropped.

When looking at the volume of opponent passes across the entire pitch, it was 446 total passes in the first phase with 363 completed; versus 411, with 262 completed, in the second phase.

Again, it appears the data supports West Ham ceding time and space a bit higher, or, the opponent attacking habits were different compared to the opponents faced in the first phase?

When looking at the volume of opponent passes within the defending final third, the average was 120 passes attempted and 78 completed  in the first phase and 126 passes attempted, with 80 completed, in the second phase.

Not that much of a difference – but in saying that the goals against in phase I was 1.67 per game, while in phase II it was .80 goals against.

All things considered, I’d offer that Allardyce has changed some tactical styles during the first 11 games.  Whether I’ve nailed the time period probably doesn’t matter – the more important thing for West Ham is that they’ve done something of value to increase goals scored and decrease goals against.

In the analyses I’ve done these past two years it would appear to me that the back four is playing a slightly deeper line and with that the attacking tactics are now sharper, and perhaps quicker.  All that going on with a draw to Stoke City and a win at home against Man City.

In Closing:

What may be troubling to the West Hammers is that their other games, in this five game stretch, included matches against Burnley and QPR; teams they should beat if a ‘should win’ is a reality in the English Premier League!

As for Aston Villa; their last five have included Man City, Everton, and Spurs, as well as QPR – a team (perhaps?) they shoulda beat???  and the draw with West Ham.

For all intents and purposes, it does appear that the PWP Key Strategic Indicators have pointed out some items of interest that may point to teams taking different tactical approaches.

The patterns seem to hold based upon what has been seen in MLS.

I wonder if those same patterns will begin to take shape in La Liga and the Bundesliga?

If so, kind of makes you consider that soccer, on both sides of the pond, is not that different at all – (perhaps???) it’s just what money gets spent to purchase top quality players and top quality managers???….

I.e. – if you spend enough money, in any league, it looks as if the tendencies of teams that don’t have higher quality players (spend the same amount of money) is to cede possession and play counter/more direct.

Best, Chris

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You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp

Possession with Purpose – Revised Introduction

It’s time to offer up another revised version of my Possession with Purpose Analysis.

My intent here is to:

  1. Provide an update that may help simplify this effort, and
  2. Update new links to articles most have found to be of great interest in the last year.

To begin… Possession with Purpose (PWP):

The End State, as always this is good to know up front:

Create an objective Strategic Family of Indices, with publicly made available data, that has relevance and helps identify (explain) the strengths and weaknesses of team performance ‘outside’ the realm of Points in the League Table.

Of note; this analysis has been presented, and received with great interest, at the World Conference on Science and Soccer of 2014.  So it’s not a fly-by-night attempt to offer up analysis that can’t translate back to the soccer and science industry or help inform the general, or well educated, soccer community (both here and across the pond) about Footy…

The Intent:

Create a Family of Indices that measure the ‘bell curve’ of strategic activities that occur in a game of football (soccer); recognizing that in order to score goals the following activities usually need to occur:

  1. Gain possession of the ball
  2. Move the ball
  3. Penetrate the opponents defending final third
  4. Generate a shot taken
  5. That ends up on target and,
  6. Gets past the keeper

From a statistical (measurement) standpoint those activities are organized into these six categories:

  1. Possession percentage
  2. Passing Accuracy across the Entire Pitch
  3. Passing Percentage within and into the Opponents Final Third compared to overall possession (i.e. = Penetration)
  4. Shots Taken per Percentage of Penetration
  5. Shots on Goal per Shots Taken
  6. Goals Scored per Shots on Goal

It’s not a secret formula but I do retain Copyright.

The Family of Strategic Indices – there are three of them:

  1. Attacking Possession with Purpose (APWP)
  2. Defending Possession with Purpose (DPWP)
  3. Composite Possession with Purpose (CPWP)

APWP Index:  How effective a team is in performing those six process steps throughout the course of a game.  Example:

APWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

DPWP Index:  How effective the opponent is in performing those six process steps, throughout the course of a game, against you.  Example:

DPWP STRATEGIC INDEX BUNDESLIGA WEEK 17

CPWP Index:  The mathematical difference between the APWP Index and DPWP Index.  Example:

CPWP Strategic Index Week 22

The Analysis:

Simply stated, the analysis stemming from this effort is a comparison and contrast between how a team performs (in the bell curve of these activities) relative to other teams in their league “without” including points in the league table.

Statistical Correlation:

Last year the CPWP Strategic Index Correlation (relationship) to Points in the Table, for Major League Soccer, was .77; this year, at the end Week 26, the R is .85.

CPWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

In returning back to the End State:

“Create an objective Strategic Family of Indices, with publicly made available data, that has relevance and helps identify the strengths and weaknesses of team performance ‘outside’ the realm of Points in the League Table.”

Given the very high level of Correlation these Indices have, I’d say this Family of Indices has considerable statistical relevance; and I should point out that although the PWP approach is an Explanatory Model it can also be leveraged as a Predictability Model.

After speaking with a number of folks at the World Conference on Science and Soccer (2014) it was agreed that the most effective way to turn this into a Predictability Model is to remove Goals Scored (in both Indices) and ‘see’ how the Composite Index takes shape after that.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

CPWP Predictability Index Week 22

A word or two of caution…

From a purely statistical viewpoint I do not see this as a Predictability Model that has direct relevance yet… why?

For the simple reason that there have not been 15 games played for all teams both Home and Away – teams show a tendency, for the most part to behave slightly different at home versus on the road…

Why the number 15?  I suppose it comes down to Confidence Level in the number of samples that are needed in order to forecast the future based upon the past…  with 34 games played in Major League Soccer you really need 15 games to reach that 95% Confidence Level limit in samples…

All that said, it is extremely inviting/inticing to see that even when Goals Scored (both for and against) are removed the CPWP Predictability Index still has a correlation (R) of .84…

Links to articles that have had extensive views over the last year and a way to get a taste of how PWP analyses might be able to help you, as a writer (through collaboration with me), better inform your audience about the nuance of soccer:

In Closing:

Others in mainstream media sometimes offer up subjective opinions that may not be substantiated with objective data; I won’t do that.

Every shred of analysis offered here will include some sort of objective data to support an opinion or conclusion.

Like any other mainstream business; statistical analysis provides objective data as a tool to leverage when looking to make business decisions.  It is not a substitute for the seasoned leadership needed to make final decisions.

I don’t advocate that this analysis is the ‘answer’ or the only tool that substantiates one view – in a soccer match, with 40,000 supporters in attendance, I’ve learned that those 40,000 supporters have 40,000 sets of eyes that see things differently.

On this site, this information and analyses presented, is merely my view, from my eyes, in how I see the game – hopefully, in order to make my future articles of better value, others will add their comments, thoughts, and questions.

Finally, I’m not sure how this will develop but I’ve been approached to provide a manuscript for this analytical effort – for publication in a Sports Science Journal.   More to follow on how that goes.  

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark

NOTE:  All data used to generate this analysis stems from OPTA through a number of open/public websites across Europe and America.

My thanks to OPTA and all those open websites for helping to facilitate my own analysis and potential improvements that may arise from this effort.

Colorado Rapids Ripped, Sundered, and Shredded – MLS Soccer through Week 26

It’s been awhile, I suppose, since a score-line of 6-nil has popped up in Major League Soccer and given the rarity, at least this year, I figured it’d be a worthy way to peel back how things are going in my traditional review of Major League Soccer each week.

As for the last time a score-line like that happened I haven’t got an historical clue but it’s the biggest difference in a score-line I’ve seen since analyzing team performance on Possession with Purpose.

In fact I do recall a five – nil win earlier this year, by New England, over Seattle.  And a five – nil win, by Montreal, over Houston last year, but nothing comes to mind for a score-line of six – nil.  (Perhaps?) others may know of a really lopsided win like this one in the history of MLS.

In all the games so far this year this was the most dominating ‘result’ and ‘outright team performance in possession with purpose’ of anyone; in case you were wondering – in the Timbers game against San Jose, this past weekend, their APWP for that game was 2.6938.

So when I mean comprehensive – I mean from, square one to the opponents goal, comprehensive… Only seven times have teams shattered the 3.0 barrier in the APWP Index this year; here they are in order:

  1. LA Galaxy 6-nil win over Colorado, Week 26 = 3.1740
  2. FC Dallas 4-1 win over Houston, Week 5 = 3.1032
  3. LA Galaxy 5-1 win over New England, Week 16 = 3.0858
  4. Columbus Crew 3-nil over Houston, Week 25 = 3.0675
  5. Chicago Fire 5-4 win over New York, Week 9 = 3.0302
  6. Sporting KC 3-nil win over Montreal, Week 9 = 3.0062, and finally
  7. DC United 3-1 win over Chivas USA, Week 19 = 3.0008

Note: the games in bold print, with italics, are games where the losing side had a Red Card.

For me, this reinforces that my ‘not‘ counting Red Cards, as a separate data point, to influence this Index, is appropriate.

If I were to add Red Cards, to the Index equation, a team would be penalized twice.

With that offered here’s the overall Composite PWP through Week 26:

CPWP Strategic Index MLS Week 26I’ve already touched on some observations here in my article earlier this week, about Standard Deviations, so just a couple of additional bits and pieces.

The R2 (correlation of this Index to Points in the League Table) is .79 this week; compared to .80 last week…

Relation to the League Table:

  • Five out of the top six Eastern Conference teams, in this Index, are currently above the red line in the League Table; with Philadelphia and New York swapped in this Index compared to the League Table.  (80% accurate)
  • Five out of the top five Western Conference teams, in this Index, are currently above the red line in the League Table.  (100% accurate)
  • Gentle reminder – the End State of this Possession with Purpose Analysis is to create an Index that comes as close to matching the League Table, as possible, without using points earned from wins or draws.

Moving on to the Attacking PWP Strategic Index:

APWP Strategic Index MLS Week 26

As expected, the top team in APWP remains LA Galaxy – all told a 10% lead over all other teams in MLS.  Chivas USA, and Wilmer Cabrera (bless him for trying) remain bottom.

The worst team in attack specifically for Week 26 (only) was Vancouver; with DC United 2nd worst and Toronto FC 3rd worst.  DC United and Vancouver played to a nil-nil draw so that’s probably no surprise.

As for Toronto – well, who bloody knows?

As offered by my friends Stephen Brandt (along with Keith Kokinda) on this latest podcast it appears to many in the northeast that Toronto is battling hard to become the Chivas USA of Canada; seems they are doing a pretty good job of that!

In concerning Portland, who had some records this past week in Shots Taken and Shots on Goal.

We already know, this year, that a critical element to scoring goals (that isn’t really measured publicly) is Time and Space.

In watching that game there is no question the Timbers had time or had space – but rarely did they have both…

As much as it may pain some folks San Jose, believe it or not, were in the right place at the right time (given the volume of shots faced) more often than not…  after all they did block nine of those 32 shots offered.

And if you didn’t know, Portland have four games where their opponent has blocked nine or more shots this year.  Only one other team has had that many shots blocked in more than one game – LA Galaxy; twice.

Seattle has the record this year – they had 12 shots blocked by, guess who, San Jose in Week 23!!!  And guess who one of the teams was that blocked nine or more against LA – yup – San Jose!

Can you say ZONE DEFENSE?

So I’m not sure I completely agree with Caleb Porter when he indicates it’s not about tactics anymore (to paraphrase).

I would offer he really knows it is – but when dropping two points, at home, again… I can certainly empathize with him voicing that in a press conference.

For me, what that translates to is this… given the amount of time left in the season there is absolutely no value and benefit going over technical weaknesses in detail.

They are known, understood, and they need to be filed, recognized for what they are, and move on.

In other words – roll the sleeves up and just bloody get on with the job in hand – win…

Come this next weekend, against Colorado, who were COMPLETELY humiliated by LA Galaxy – you can bet Mastroeni is not only wanting his team to win to get back in the race – but he’s also probably wanting his team to win in order to keep his chances of running the Rapids next year a reality…

With that said, here’s the Defending PWP Strategic Index through Week 26:

DPWP Strategic Index MLS Week 26

I read somewhere, here, that Columbus Crew were the biggest over-achievers in Major League Soccer and slow in defending; bollocks… complete and utter bollocks.

You simply can’t convince me that this team performance Index, with a -.7o correlation to points in the League Table, supports Columbus being “over-achievers and slow in defending”…

Let’s not forget that Columbus is the most consistent team in passing accuracy across MLS (least standard deviation i.e. consistency of purpose)

Indeed, as the Composite PWP Index points out at the beginning of this article, the Columbus Crew are simply a strong team that has been consistently strong throughout the year.

  • At Week four they were best in the CPWP Index
  • At Week seven they were 2nd in the CPWP Index
  • At Week 12 they were 3rd in the CPWP Index
  • At Week 18 they were 5th in the CPWP Index
  • And at week 22 they were 5th in the CPWP Index
  • Now – they have climbed back up to 3rd best in the CPWP Index
  • Not sure there have been many teams, besides LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders, who have been as consistently strong in consistency of purpose.

So like I said – bollocks to them being pidgeon-holed as over-achievers… and while many may disagree, for me, this is just another example of how poorly the mainstream media do in really knowing, understanding and communicating what football (soccer) is all about.

In regarding Houston… and their position in DPWP.

The addition of Luis Garrido has added value; they have pushed up past Chicago Fire SC, and are mere thousandths of a point behind both Montreal and Toronto in team defending.

As for Toronto – they continue their slide…

I’m simply having a hard time wrapping my head around Nelson being sacked, I do see statistical information supporting the sacking but most organizations lean towards ‘results’ as opposed to ‘statistical indicators’… and when it came to results Toronto were third best in the Eastern Conference before Ryan was sacked.

(Perhaps?) this is a ‘team organizational decision making indicator’ (from Toronto FC) where statistical information has as much, if not more value in a coaching change,  than ‘results do’???

In closing…

The screws get turned even tighter… winning is the key but within that phrase there remains the need to tactically ‘get it right’… meaning defense is absolutely critical.

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark.

You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp

 

 

 

 

English Premier League – Week 1 Possession with Purpose

If you’ve been following my analysis in Major League Soccer you should know that I’ve developed a set of Indices associated with my Possession with Purpose Analysis.

As time permits, and the opportunities present themselves, I will be adding my own analysis on Strategic Team Attacking and Defending PWP for the EPL.

Hope you enjoy the ride as the first week has already kicked out some surprises; at least for me anyway… the most surprising being that six teams won games on the road last weekend; Hull, Villa, Spurs, Swansea, Chelsea, and Man City.

As for whether or not it was reasonable that those teams won, at this stage, versus the other teams we will see – for now that number of teams winning on the road struck me as unusual.

To begin, the Composite Possession with Purpose (CPWP) Index after Week 1:

CPWP EPL after Week 1

Like MLS it’s entirely possible, and even practical, that the Index WILL NOT match the League Table; if it did I’d be very surprised.

And after Week 1 the team outputs are a direct reflection of how they did against their opponent… but it does provide an equal footing starting place to begin to track team attacking and defending performance where all statistical analyses are equal – most appropriately re-phrased as ‘unmodified’…

In terms of top fiddle this week – Manchester City – and as duly noted – their opponent, Newcastle, is bottom of the barrel.

So here’s how the teams stacked up in Attacking (APWP):

APWP EPL after Week 1

 

Chelsea lead the pack in attack – while Sunderland and Arsenal also show good value in attack – more in the weeks to follow on what the percentages are behind the Index – for now recognize that this APWP Index is NOT overly biased to possession or passing, my two years worth of analysis in MLS has already shown that.

With respect to Defending (DPWP):

DPWP EPL after Week 1

Again, pretty basic stuff here – but the simplicity of defending is not quite the same as attacking – in this case Man City are still tops in DPWP – while Burnley, getting hammered by Chelsea are bottom.

There will be other statistical indicators I’ll offer up as the season continues and two of them are provided below: (Passing Accuracy within and into the Final Third and Opponent Passing Accuracy within and into the Final Third).

Passing Accuracy Final Third EPL after Week 1

 

 

 

 

Opponent Passing Accuracy Final Third EPL after Week 1

All for now… simply too early to offer thoughts or opinions on team performance…

Best, Chris

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